You might be the boss, but they aren't your employees.
Many of us have probably come across a bossy guild leader and have plenty of unfortunate stories to tell as a result. It's all too easy for a guild leader to fall into the trap of assuming that just because members voluntarily joined the guild, they can be bossed around at will. The relationship between a member and a guild leader is a two-way street, and while the leader is the one who provides direction and organization, the members play key roles in shaping that path and setting the overall atmosphere in the guild. Bosses need to keep a polite distance from their employees, but that doesn't necessarily have to be the case with guild leaders and members. In fact, if you look at many longtime guilds, there's a closeness among everyone in the guild, to the point that ranks are largely symbolic. Guild leaders who are too heavy-handed with their members not only lose the respect of the members but will eventually lose members who choose to move on to other guilds.
Don't take your work home with you
You might need to put in extra hours with your job, but guild leaders shouldn't have to burn the midnight oil running the guild. There are a few tasks, particularly in the early stages of forming a guild, that take a little extra time to set up, but if you're spending hours managing things on a regular basis, it's time to rethink things. The worst offender is tracking loot, and while a thorough system is good to have, there are plenty of systems that are fair and don't require a lot of time to manage. Website maintenance is another potential headache, but I'd argue that websites aren't even a necessity these days. So if you do choose to have your own guild site, make it easy on yourself.
Guild leaders also have to manage people as well, and that can become a time-consuming task. Some leaders end up spending so much time handling disputes and player demands that they're doing that more than just playing the game. In fact, some leaders sneak off on other characters in order to find some peace of mind away from guild demands. While leaders should be proactive in resolving issues that could boil over into potential guild breakers, it's nearly impossible to juggle every little flare up. By reacting to every complaint or demand, not only can a leader be consumed by player management, but he encourages even more members to pile on with requests because it becomes part of the guild culture. Taking a more hands-off approach lets a guild leader handle the graver issues and shows the guild that they shoulder some responsibility to resolve minor ones on their own.
Work and play
"It's just a game" is a phrase that players often hear. The communities that form and the social bonds made in games prove that there's a bit more to MMOs than a game of Uno. At the same time, there should be a line drawn between gaming and real life, and for guild leaders, that's often hard to establish. Running a guild is a responsibility, and if the guild leader isn't active and visible, it puts a strain on the guild and can lead to leadership changes or a potential mass exodus of members. It's sometimes hard to find a balance, but leaders should want to log on because of the enjoyment of the game, not out of a sense of obligation. Leaders should choose officers wisely and delegate appropriately so that there are leaders online even if the guild leader isn't. We all have to show up to work even if we would rather stay in bed, but we don't need to log in if our heart isn't in it, and that goes for guild leaders as well as players in general.
We often hear that the role of guild leader provides important leadership skills, and some have even gone so far as to say they're better candidates for business leadership than an MBA grad. There's no doubt that running a guild can help hone the skills that come in handy in other leadership roles, but running a guild shouldn't become a second job, nor should it feel like work. There are times when guild leaders almost become prisoners of the guild because the responsibilities become so numerous that they eat up all available free time. If you are a guild leader and feel overwhelmed, it's worth it to step back and dial it down a bit. What you might find is that a more easygoing approach will not only breathe new life into the game for you but might improve spirits in the guild overall.
Do you have a guild problem that you just can't seem to resolve? Have a guild issue that you'd like to discuss? Every week, Karen Bryan takes on reader questions about guild management right here in The Guild Counsel column. She'll offer advice, give practical tips, and even provide a shoulder to lean on for those who are taking up the challenging task of running a guild.